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|ARC WEEK IN FRANCE
Featuring the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp
8 Days, 7 Nights (including one en route)
SEPTEMBER 30 to OCTOBER 7, 2013
4 nights in Paris, 2 nights in Chantilly
5 days of racing at Longchamp, Chantilly, Saint-Cloud, and Compiegne
Training area visit in Chantilly
The Arc-eve Sale of Horses in Training
Special sightseeing in Paris, Chantilly, and Compiegne
Depart the U.S., if not joining the trip from Paris or elsewhere.
Arrive in Paris. You will be met at the airport and transferred to our accommodation in nearby Chantilly. This year we're spending two nights in Chantilly for several reasons: racing is scheduled here for tomorrow and in nearby Compiegne on Thursday; there's a superb new hotel in the center of town that we think you'll enjoy, and being here two nights will give us a better opportunity to see and do more before we move on to Paris later in the week.
And not to forget, Charles de Gaulle airport is already halfway to Chantilly from central Paris, so we're saving ourselves a good deal of back-and-forth drive time throughout the week.
The remainder of your arrival day is free for adjustment and your own activities. Around about 5:30PM we'll convene in the hotel bar for a drink or two, to get to know each other and get organized for the week ahead. Following, if you are wanting company, we'll have a no-host dinner at a local bistro popular with horse people. It's not always easy, but we'll do our best to make it an early night.
THE AUBERGE DU JEU DE PAUME: At last there's a fine hotel in the heart of Chantilly, with the opening of this exceptional property in the fall of 2012. Within close walking distance of all the town's principal sights and services, the Jeu de Paume occupies a 250-year-old building originally constructed for the "palm game", an indoor ball-and-net precursor to tennis played by the French nobility.
In addition to the very comfortable guest rooms, the hotel features two on-site restaurants and a bar, an indoor pool and fitness center, and a spa facility. To learn more you can visit the hotel website at www.aubergedujeudepaumechantilly.fr. A buffet breakfast is included each morning of our stay.
We'll be off early this morning for an extended look at the racehorse training center of Chantilly. Like Newmarket in England or The Curragh in Ireland, Chantilly is the main headquarters for French trainers, and over a hundred are in residence here. The center is huge geographically, covering nearly a thousand acres, and includes grass, sand, and artificial gallops in open areas and woods.
We'll go out with an Arc-winning trainer to see all the different parts of it, and follow up with brunch at his yard.
Shortly after mid-day we'll be back at the hotel. You'll then have a few hours to yourself to relax or to poke around Chantilly on your own. This might be a good time to visit the Museum of the Horse or the Chateau, both of which are in the immediate neighborhood.
Racing is scheduled to begin at 4PM this afternoon. We'll get over to the course about then, and we'll also arrange a rendezvous point for those who might want to continue independent exploration until a bit later. There are no major races scheduled for today, but the Chantilly course's elegant atmosphere will be on display as usual.
Home to the French Derby and Oaks, and in action since 1834, this is certainly one of the world's most extraordinarily situated racetracks. Providing the backdrop are the famous Grands Ecuries (Grand Stables), built by the Prince de Conde for his horses in the 1700's, and currently housing the Horse Museum – you'll recognize the view when you see it. Behind the stretch turn is the Chateau. Sometimes, when the field is sweeping the far turn, it's hard to keep your eye on the horses.
At the course we'll have the equivalent to member's enclosure credentials, entitling us to most of the best parts of the grounds and viewing areas.
We have no specific plans for the evening. It's easy walking distance, so anyone can return to the hotel on their own at their time of choice. The racing will last until about 8PM. You might want to try the fine-dining restaurant in the hotel, something more casual in the town, or just relax with room service.
We never know what the French racing schedule is going to offer us on this Thursday before the Arc – it's a different fixture every year. We have good luck in 2013, as racing is on at the charming course in Compiegne, a place with much in its past about 30 miles northeast of Chantilly. After checkout from the Jeu de Paume, we'll head out and do some sightseeing on our way to the races.
Now a busy small city, Compiegne is steeped in history. Charles the Bald built a palace here in the 800s, and also an abbey around which the town gradually grew. In 1430 this was where Joan of Arc was captured by the Burgundians and the English. For centuries French kings visited Compiegne, and Louis XV ordered a massive reconstruction of the palace in the 1700s to get it up to near-par with Versailles and Fontainebleau.
In modern times it's most famous for the signing of the armistice ending World War I, in the forest just to the east. Marshal Foch received the German delegation in a railway car, and later a landscaped memorial including the rail car was built on the spot. When Germany defeated France in 1940, Hitler insisted that the peace be signed in the same place. The original car was taken to Berlin and burned, but after World War II a replica was brought and the memorial reestablished.
Today the "Armistice Clearing" includes a small museum and provides a thought-provoking experience. It will be our one definite stop on the way to the racecourse. There's quite a bit else to see in Compiegne – including the palace itself and the Second Empire Museum within, and another fascinating museum of historical miniature figurines. As the town center is only a kilometer or so from the racecourse, we'll do our best to accommodate those for whom the racing might be less than an all-consuming priority.
The Compiegne course is peaceful and lovely, and though once again there will be no major events on tap it's a nice opportunity to experience the flavor of casual French country racing.
Following the races we'll continue on to central Paris and our lodging at the Raphael Hotel. After check-in and weather permitting, we might want to regroup in the rooftop bar for cocktails. We'll also make a group dinner booking, open to those interested on a no-host basis.
THE RAPHAEL: We've hung our hat at the Raphael Hotel since 2004 and never been disappointed. Many of our travelers have returned to it on subsequent independent trips to Paris. We like it especially because, more than any of the other top city hotels, it has avoided the glass-and-marble international style and retained its ambiance of traditional Parisian luxury. The rooms are large, there's a fine restaurant, a cozy "English" bar, and of course the delightful rooftop garden which we can hope the weather will have permitted to remain open. The location is also excellent: out of the main tourist areas, but close to the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower, the cafes of the Champs Elysees, and the good shopping on Avenue Victor Hugo. A buffet breakfast is included each morning of our stay. Please see www.raphael-hotel.com for details on the hotel.
After two busy days, this could be a morning for you to catch up on your sleep or otherwise take it easy. You might even want to use the day to be completely on your own.
We won't be ignoring the track action however. They'll be running this afternoon at Saint-Cloud, just across the Seine in the city's northern near-suburbs. This is Paris' second most important flat course after Longchamp and it's host to a number of major events throughout the year, including the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in June and two big Group 1s for 2-year-olds in November.
This pre-Arc Friday card in recent years has usually included a Listed race or two and a pair of interesting conditions/allowance-type events for 2-year-olds, many of them promising prospects for next year. The program will also feature some large-purse Group-level races for pure-bred Arabians.
We always enjoy our days at Saint-Cloud. It's a pretty course and a light weekday crowd furnishes us with a particularly low-key experience of it. We'll have access to the comfortable Owners' Bar.
Nothing concrete is on for tonight, but if you've never done it before we might suggest a dinner cruise on the Seine. Like a gondola ride in Venice or a balloon over the Serengeti, an evening boat ride in Paris is one of those cliches that delivers genuine magic. We can hook you up with one of the nicer operators.
Arc Weekend starts today at venerable Longchamp Racecourse, unquestionably one of the world's most beautiful urban racecourses – where the Eiffel Tower rising above the trees of the Bois de Boulogne serves as an unofficial ten-furlong pole and a reminder of where you are.
This is the first of two days for us at Longchamp (leaving the hotel today at about 1PM), and if you went to Saint-Cloud yesterday and want a break from racing, you could take this day for your independent enjoyment of Paris. The advantage of attending today is that you'll be able to get a sense of Longchamp without the masses that will be here tomorrow for the Arc itself. It's a good day to learn your way around.
Both today and tomorrow we'll have a block of well-located reserved seats with excellent viewing of the racing, plus access to the best parts of the grounds.
The specific races carded on "Arc Saturday" vary from year to year, and the 2013 scheduling is not set in stone as yet. Usually slated are four Group 2s – the Chaudenay, Royallieu, Dollar, and Daniel Wildenstein – for various age groups and at distances ranging from a mile to almost two miles. Some years one or two of the weekend's seven Group 1 events are moved to the Saturday, and that could still happen this season.
Following the racing, there is the traditional Arc-eve horses-in-training sale at Saint-Cloud Racecourse, and we'll return there to take it in. This sale has a relaxed, informal, and very French feel and it's a good opportunity to interact with the local racing people. Those not interested in the sale can taxi straight back to the hotel from Longchamp.
All things considered, we rate the Arc de Triomphe as the greatest flat race in the world. It wins in a photo from the Derby at Epsom and its Kentucky and Irish counterparts, the Ascot Gold Cup, and the Melbourne Cup.
Since World War II, the mile-and-a-half Arc has been Europe's championship race. If a horse from anywhere has a claim to be European Horse of the Year, and is still operating on four good legs and two good lungs, he or she is expected to run in the Arc and prove it. And by long-standing custom, reinforced lately by a huge Middle Eastern money purse enhancement, almost all the top contenders do indeed show up.
The race's idiosyncrasies - the large and potentially congested field, the often testing ground – emphasize the difficulty. And although many a pretender has been humbled here, the greatest usually find a way to win it: Ribot, Sea-Bird, Mill Reef, Dancing Brave, Zarkava, and Sea the Stars are testament to that.
Years ago John Randall and Tony Morris put it best: "The best horses have to accept that ultimate challenge. If they are fit and well and they do not, we can only assume they are not up to it."
Arc Day is a spectacle even apart from the racing. The crowd is probably the most cosmopolitan of any in the world: The Qatar sponsorship insures good representation from the Middle East, there are always a ton of English and Irish over for the weekend, and in recent years competitive challenges from Japan, Germany, and other racing centers have only added more colors to the mix. For the ladies there's also the fashion angle: Paris in October -- the start of a new season of vogue and a chance for a first look at what you'll see being worn in big cities around the world.
In the end, though, the highlight is always the race, and the moment when the usually large Arc field hits the top of the stretch and the wheat starts separating from the chaff. There's not a more exciting thirty seconds in the sport than the thirty after that.
Besides the Arc, there are six other Group 1 races on the weekend: the Abbaye, a straight five-furlong sprint; the Foret, Europe's only Group 1 at seven-eighths; the Lagardere and the Boussac, 2-year-old events for colts and fillies respectively; the important Prix de l'Opera for fillies and mares over ten furlongs, and the two-and-a-half mile Cadran, besides the Gold Cup at Ascot the only other Group 1 in the world at the distance. Some years all of these are run on the Sunday, and on occasion one or more are carded on the Saturday. Either way it's still the closest thing Europe has to a Breeders' Cup.
We'll have our same well-located block of reserved seats for viewing, and access to the best enclosures to mingle with the racing people that have come from all over the world. It's a day at the races you won't forget.
Back at the Raphael, we'll probably want to re-gather in the bar and have some last laughs together. Dinner will happen at some point.
The organized itinerary ends after breakfast and checkout this morning. If you must go, bonne chance and travel safely. Transfer to your Paris airport is provided if you are leaving today or upon your departure if extending at the Raphael.
This trip will close on August 6, 2013. Payment in full and all necessary paperwork must be completed and received by us no later than this date to insure that you will be able to join the group.
COME EARLY, STAY LATE:
The itinerary, by design, is full and busy. If you would like more of a leisurely experience, we invite you to consider coming to Chantilly earlier and/or staying on in Paris after our trip concludes. In Chantilly, The Museum of the Horse and the Chateau are unfortunately closed on Tuesday (which is Day 2, the "arrival" day of our itinerary). An early-enough arrival on Monday would make it possible for a visit to either attraction (there probably won't be time enough for both in the middle of our Day 3 Wednesday).
The fall is many people's favorite time of year in Paris. The Raphael Hotel is convenient to everything and the concierges have all the keys to the city.
Our hotels have promised to accommodate extensions as best they can, but the space is not blocked or guaranteed. This is the busiest time of the year in Paris, so please let us know as soon as possible if you want more time in either place.
ITINERARY & PRICES:
The itinerary includes:
The itinerary does not include:
- Two(2) nights' lodging at the Auberge du Jeu de Paume in Chantilly.
- Four(4) nights' lodging at the Raphael Hotel in Paris.
- Breakfast each morning as indicated.
- Brunch on One(1) Day: In Chantilly October 2.
- Five(5) escorted days of racing at Longchamp, Chantilly, Saint-Cloud, and Compiegne, including admission, transportation to and from the course, and race card. Restricted lounge access at Saint-Cloud and reserved seating both days at Longchamp.
- Training visit in Chantilly, including the gallops and visit to a trainer's yard.
- Excursion to the World War I Armistice Clearing, and assistance with other independent sightseeing in Compiegne.
- Visit to the Arc-eve horses-in-training sale at Saint-Cloud.
- Transfer from Paris airport to the Auberge du Jeu de Paume, Chantilly.
- Transfer from Chantilly (via Compiegne) to the Raphael Hotel, Paris.
- Transfer from Raphael Hotel to Paris airport at conclusion of trip. (Please note incoming and outbound transfers from and to Charles de Gaulle airport are included in the trip price; there will be a supplementary charge for transfers involving Orly or other airports, or to and from central Paris.)
- Complimentary racing newspaper each day.
- Welcome cocktails in Chantilly.
- Accompaniment throughout by a knowledgeable American escort.
The Cost of the Trip does not include:
- Airfare to and from the U.S.A.
- Dinner on any night, or lunch on any day except where indicated above.
The Cost of the Trip Is:
- Any charges incurred at hotels other than the basic cost of the room, including but not limited to room service, mini-bar, television or video, restaurant or bar service, laundry or dry-cleaning, business services, golf or other activities, and activities arranged through hotel concierge. (All group members will be required to provide a credit card imprint upon check-in at each hotel to guarantee payment for any individual charges.)
- Excess baggage charges. Please check intra-European air flight baggage allowances.
- Costs related to obtaining passports or visas.
- Travel insurance.
- Alcoholic beverages, except for the "Welcome" cocktail hour.
- Charges incurred for anything other than what is specified in the "Itinerary Includes" summary above.
- Personal gratuities. As part of our arrangements we will tip farm and stable personnel, our drivers, and the hotel staffs on behalf of the group. Group members should appropriately tip their incoming and outbound transfer drivers and anyone who provides them with personal assistance, including any special assistance by hotel staff. Please note your principal tour escort does not expect and will not accept a gratuity.
$3,725 per person, based on double occupancy (twelve or more travelers)
$3,825 per person, based on double occupancy (ten or eleven travelers)
$3,975 per person, based on double occupancy (eight or nine travelers)
$1,560 single supplement, regardless of group size.
*Please note we have still not received final pricing for some elements of this trip, and the trip price is therefore subject to minor adjustment until we do.
At the Raphael in Paris, singles will be accommodated in the same class of double rooms as the double-occupancy members of the group.
We will attempt to match single travelers wishing to double up and thereby avoid the Single Supplement, however it will always be the single traveler's's decision whether or not to accept a roommate.
Trip prices are subject to change up to thirty(30) days prior to trip departure to reflect fluctuations in currency exchange rates between the United States and the European Union. U.S. Dollar prices quoted herein are based on the following exchange rates:
1 US $ = 0.775 Euro // 1 Euro = 1.29 US $
Additional Nights at The Raphael Hotel, Paris, or the Auberge du Jeu de Paume in Chantilly, if available: will vary, depending on length of stay and specific nights chosen. Please inquire.
Upgrade to a deluxe "Boudoir" room at the Raphael Hotel for $135 per person, double occupancy. See the Raphael Hotel website for particulars on the rooms.
*This trip is designed for eight(8) to eighteen(18) people. Although we will make every effort to operate the trip, we reserve the right to cancel it if it has less than eight(8) subscribers. Should we need to do so, all payments made to Racing-Europe toward the trip will be fully and promptly refunded.
*You must have a valid passport to enter France.
*Please note the 2013 French racing schedule for non-major days has still not been officially finalized as of December 1, 2012. Changes to the provisional schedule, although unlikely, may result in our racing days being shifted from one day to another in the itinerary.
Quote by John Randall and Tony Morris from A Century of Champions,
published in 1999 by Partway Press Ltd., Halifax, West Yorkshire HX1 1XE
Racing photos © www.actionplus.co.uk
Other photos courtesy of the Auberge du Jeu de Paume,
Peter Kastner, Oise Tourism Office, Candace Wong, and Kay Minton
View the Itinerary for our other 2013 trip:
For July-August (England), click here
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